By Tenneh Dukuly
Many countries around the world -- such as Austria, Cuba and Sudan -- have given young people 16-17 years of age the right to vote. When some adults in the United States hear about young people voting, they think it is a very bad idea. Some consider young voters too immature to vote, easily swayed, misinformed about the fundamental structure of government. As a young person, I believe voting should be extended to 16 and 17 years old.
Research shows that young people are just as engaged in politics as older voters. Allowing young people to vote ties their civic engagement to the education gained from government classes in high school. Teens that have a love for politics will focus on knowing their terminology to disprove adults that might not take them seriously because of their age. Just like adults, teens that do not care about voting are less likely to vote and or to be informed about anything relating to politics.
When some adults state that teens are not yet mature enough to vote, it is a generalization that all teenagers are irresponsible and do not care about what is happening in the world around them. Young people that care about their community and politics will educate themselves on current events. When I think about maturity, I think of different individuals, of different ages. Maturity is not solely based on age but the experiences of individuals. Even now, there are some older people that are irresponsible and lacking knowledge of the structure of our government.
While some may fear that teens are easily swayed, most teens are capable of independent decision making. Being able to make their own decisions, they are not going to easily change their vote because of what their parents say or do. As voting rights are extending to 16 and 17 year olds around the world and in U.S. municipalities, I hope more adults will embrace and encourage the next generation of young voters.
Tenneh Dukuly is a 2015 Research Intern at FairVote. Do you want to apply for a FairVote Fellowship? Find more information here: http://www.fairvote.org/who-we-are/internships-and-employment/fellowships/